Paediatric OT waiting lists must be reduced without delay – Brendan Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has appealed to the Minister for Health to take immediate action to reduce the long waiting lists for Occupational Therapy for children in Cavan and Monaghan.

The most recent figures reveal that there are hundreds of children across the two counties are waiting over a year for an appointment with an Occupational Therapist.

Deputy Brendan Smith explained, “Earlier this year there were more than 300 children on an OT waiting list for more than a year. This is a shocking figure and could pose serious issues for these children in terms of early intervention. Occupational Therapy is an essential rehabilitation process for children who may have suffered an accident or injury or who are living with a disability.

“The HSE is blaming staffing issues for the long delays in waiting times citing reorganisation and maternity leave. I find it ridiculous that the HSE is unable to manage its own staffing arrangements and management must now step up to the mark and address these issues. While it says that it is “progressing the recruitment approval process”, measures must be taken to ensure that this is completed without delay.

“I am calling on the Health Minister to establish a special taskforce to alleviate the serious backlogs in this area. I know there have been problems with recruitment of staff but the current situation is completely unacceptable.

“Children should not be left bearing the brunt of this Government’s failure to get to grips with the dysfunction in our health service and the Minister must act without delay to bring these lengthy waiting lists under control”.

 

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Holy Family School to go to construction early 2018 – Brendan Smith T.D.

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil T.D. Brendan Smith has been informed by the Minister for Education and Skills that his Department expects that the Holy Family School building project will progress to site early in 2018.

Deputy Brendan Smith stated that following the decision by the Department to authorise the School to proceed to tender for the appointment of a building contractor it is expected that the Design Team will issue the necessary invitations to tender at an early date. He added that following the invitation of tenders a specific time frame of 8 weeks is allowed for the tender process.

Deputy Brendan Smith welcomed this further confirmation from Minister Bruton who was responding to his most recent Parliamentary Question in Dáil Éireann. He also complimented the Principal and successive Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations who had worked hard over the years to advance this much needed project which will provide the school with much needed modern and up to date accommodation.

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For Written Answer on : 11/10/2017 

Question Number(s): 103 Question Reference(s): 43158/17 

Department: Education and Skills 

______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when a project (details supplied) will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) When will tenders be invited in respect of building project for Holy Family School, Cootehill; the timescale for construction to commence

REPLY

A major school building project to provide new accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy has recently been authorized by my Department to proceed to tender for the appointment of a Building Contractor. Assuming no significant issues arise during the tender process, my Department expects that the project will progress to site early in 2018.

 

Govt must take steps to correct inequities in pensions system – Brendan Smith

– Women have been unfairly treated under system brought in under FG-Lab Govt –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Government to set out a timeframe for addressing the inequalities in the State pension, which are negatively impacting on women.

Fianna Fáil brought forward a private members motion to highlight the issue.  It’s hoping the motion can be used as a roadmap by the Government to create a fairer system.

Deputy Smith explained, “The current pension system puts women at a severe disadvantage.  Anyone who took time out from the workforce for caring and childminding duties is penalised.  The situation was further exacerbated by the disastrous changes introduced by Fine Gael and Labour in 2012.

“Of the 36,000 people affected by these changes, 62% are women. Even the Minister for Finance described this situation as ‘bonkers’ and ‘unbelievable’, whilst Joan Burton the then Tánaiste  and Minister responsible for introducing  the 2012 changes has said she ‘regrets’ them.

“I have been long calling for this disastrous situation to be addressed.  The inequities have resulted in tens of thousands of people losing out on their full pension entitlements – with around 23,000 women impacted.  The Government must begin correcting these anomalies to ensure equal treatment of men and women.

“It’s disappointing that the Government has allowed this issue to continue for so long and it is imperative that it is tackled.  I would like to see Ministers outline a plan which would allow for the anomaly to be addressed on an incremental basis, reflecting the finances available to the State.

“The State has a roll to play to leading the way in ending gender discrimination in this country. It needs to start with this glaringly obvious problem that is affecting so many of our citizens,” concluded Deputy Smith.

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For Written Answer on : 17/10/2017 

Question Number(s): 591 Question Reference(s): 43972/17 

Department: Employment Affairs and Social Protection 

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QUESTION

WRITTEN question for answer on 17/10/2017 : To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to parliamentary question number 1554 of 26 July 2017, her plans to amend the legislation and regulations in relation to eligibility for State pension purposes; if such provisions will be included in the forthcoming Social Welfare Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.

REPLY

Question No: 591 Ref No: 43972/17

To the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection

To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to parliamentary question number 1554 of 26 July 2017, her plans to amend the legislation and regulations in relation to eligibility for State pension purposes; if such provisions will be included in the forthcoming Social Welfare Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 17th October, 2017.

R E P L Y

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Regina Doherty T.D.):

Officials in the Department are currently working on the detailed development of the ‘Total Contribution Approach’ (TCA). It is expected that the TCA will replace the yearly average approach for new pensioners from around 2020. The aim of this approach is to make the rate of contributory pension more closely match contributions made by a person. This is a very significant reform with considerable legal, administrative, and technical elements in its implementation, which will take a number of years to complete. An important element in the final design of the scheme will be the position of women who have gaps in their contribution records as a result of caring duties, and this factor is being considered very carefully in developing this reform.

Data from the independent actuarial review of the Social Insurance Fund is currently being analysed to cost options for the new approach. Following that analysis, a paper will be prepared, outlining and costing various alternatives, including, as promised, options regarding homemaker periods. My Department will then conduct a period of consultation with relevant stakeholders, providing them with information and requesting that they outline what they consider should be the priorities in this reform. After the consultation period, I will submit a proposal to Government seeking approval of the new approach. Following a Government decision, legislation will be prepared for consideration by the Oireachtas.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Cavan-Monaghan Garda Division needs additional officers – Brendan Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has appealed to the Justice Minister to ensure that additional Garda personnel are allocated to the Cavan-Monaghan Garda Division.

Since 2010, the Garda force across the division has been reduced by almost 20%, while Co. Monaghan alone has seen a 28% cut.

Deputy Brendan Smith warned, “The impending impact of Brexit in the border region, particularly in respect of policing issues, cannot be underestimated.  However, the force in Cavan and Monaghan is well depleted.  I have been appealing to the Justice Minister for some time to allocate additional personnel to the region.

“While the Minister talks about the Government’s commitment to “ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime”, he has made no commitment to increasing Garda numbers in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

“Since 2014, we have only seen an additional 21 officers allocated to the division and I have grave concerns that the force is not adequately staffed to cope with any additional duties, which may arise as a result of Brexit.

“Minister Flanagan’s reply does not do anything to ally my fears.  In fact, rural communities across the two counties have been expressing concern following a spike in anti-social behaviour and burglaries in recent weeks.  The downgrading of Ballyconnell Garda Station has also raised fear and anger levels in neighbouring communities.

“Government needs to start taking the issue of Garda provision in the border area seriously.  For too long, we have seen services reduced and communities deprived of essential amenities.  I want Minister Flanagan to commit to additional Gardaí for the region – it has been left behind for too long and measures must be taken to ensure that we are fully prepared for any possible issues coming down the road as a result of Brexit”.

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For Written Answer on : 10/10/2017

Question Number(s): 222 Question Reference(s): 42257/17

Department: Justice and Equality

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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase garda numbers in the Cavan and Monaghan division in view of the reduction in garda personnel since 2010; if the particular policing needs of this division due to a long land border with a neighbouring jurisdiction will be taken into account in the allocation of garda resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends, demographics and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I have been informed that the number of Gardaí assigned to the Cavan / Monaghan Division on the 31 August 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 323 with 12 Garda Reserves and 37 Civilians. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

This plan is progressing apace. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.

I am further informed by the Commissioner, that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 33 of whom have been assigned to the

Cavan / Monaghan Division. I am also informed that another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end – an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Cavan / Monaghan Division in the coming years.

In so far as the allocation of newly attested Gardaí is concerned, this is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am assured by the Commissioner that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of resources. However, it is important to keep in mind that newly attested Gardaí have a further 16 months of practical and class-room based training to complete in order to receive their BA in Applied Policing. To ensure that they are properly supported and supervised and have opportunities to gain the breadth of policing experience required, the Commissioner’s policy is to allocate them to specially designated training stations which have the required training and development structures and resources in place, including trained Garda tutors and access to a permanently appointed supervisory Sergeant who is thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following a meeting with Youth Work Ireland I raised with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the need to reconstitute the National Youth Work Advisory Committee and also with the Minister for Justice and Equality the need to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

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For Written Answer on : 11/10/2017

Question Number(s): 169 Question Reference(s): 43078/17 Written

Department: Children and Youth Affairs

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 QUESTION

 * To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to reconstitute the national youth work advisory committee as provided for in the Youth Work Act 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter.                                                                                                                                                                               Brendan Smith T.D.

REPLY

Sections 17 and 18 of the Youth Work Act 2001 provide for the appointment of a National Youth Work Advisory Committee. The Committee had an advisory and consultative role to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in matters to do with youth work, including the coordination of youth work programmes and services. In line with these provisions, a new National Youth Work Advisory Committee was appointed by the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with a term of office of one year with effect from 28 January 2013.   The Committee had its final meeting on 26 November 2013. The Committee continued to work with my Department and assisted with the development of the new National Youth Strategy, in particular in identifying in what ways the youth work sector can contribute to shared policy objectives for young people.

The National Youth Strategy 2015-2020 was published in, 2015. The implementation structures established by my Department under Better Outcomes Brighter Futures (BOBF), the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People oversee the roll out of the National Youth Strategy. There is no doubt that the youth work services have a significant contribution to make to realise the goals of the National Youth Strategy as part of a cross sectoral, whole of society approach to supporting young people in their everyday lives. For this reason, the key youth sector interests are represented on the structures established by my Department to support the implementation of Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. At national level, representatives of the voluntary youth services have been appointed to the Advisory Council of BOBF. At local level, youth sector representatives participate in the Children and Young People’s Services Committees. Key Government departments and agencies that have an interest in children and young people and that had served on the National Youth Work Advisory Committee are represented on the Children and Young People’s Policy Consortium and on the Sponsors Group that have been established under Better Outcomes Brighter Futures to drive the effective implementation of the policy framework.

 

There have been other significant policy and legislative developments that are relevant to the provision of youth services and the role of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee since the 2001 Act was passed. These include the introduction of the Education and Training Boards Act 2013 which, inter alia, provides for a statutory function for Education and Training Boards in supporting the provision and assessment of youth work services at local level. The National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-making 2015-2020, which was published by my Department in June, 2015 is particularly relevant. I am deeply committed to ensuring that young people are involved in the preparation, planning and implementation of policies that impact on their lives.

In addition, my Department is fully committed to the reform of the many youth funding schemes. The Deputy will be aware that a number of targeted funding schemes supporting youth services were the subject of a Value for Money and Policy Review in 2014. The review made a number of recommendations for the future operation of the youth schemes and their development in the years ahead. Work on the development of a new funding scheme has been prioritised by my Department and consultations with youth services are continuing with a view to introducing the new youth funding programme in line with the review. The Deputy will also be aware that my Department has commenced a review of the Youth Service Grant Scheme. This review is intended to enhance its accountability, transparency and outcome measurement. It is also seeking to determine how best to meet the ever evolving needs of young people.

My Department works closely with the youth work sector, the voluntary youth services, the Education and Training Boards, other government departments and agencies and consults with young people themselves in the development and delivery of policies and services for children and young people.

For the above reasons, it is not my intention to reconvene the National Youth Work Advisory Committee while the reform process is ongoing. Given the seismic changes which have occurred over the past sixteen years, my Department will be revisiting the Youth Work Act, 2001 on the conclusion of the reform process, to ensure that it fully articulates the needs of young people in Ireland.

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For Written Answer on : 11/10/2017

Question Number(s): 108 Question Reference(s): 43120/17

Department: Justice and Equality

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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be ratified; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Ireland signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007 and since then, successive Governments have emphasised Ireland’s strong commitment to proceed to ratification as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are met. This Government remains committed to ratification of the Convention.

It is essential that the State is in a position to meet the obligations that it assumes under the terms of an international agreement from the moment of its entry into force for Ireland. Before the State can ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, enactment of new legislation and amendment of existing legislation is required to ensure obligations will be met upon entry into force for Ireland.  Ratification of a Convention before we have amended domestic legislation that contradicts it makes no sense and does nothing to ensure compliance or to protect the people for whose benefit the Convention exists.  The previous Government published a Roadmap in October 2015, which sets out the legislative measures needed to meet those requirements, along with declarations and reservations to be entered by Ireland on ratification.

Considerable progress has already been made to overcome the remaining legislative barriers to Ireland’s ratification of the Convention. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law on 30 December 2015 and is a comprehensive reform of the law on decision-making capacity. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 has reformed Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 to facilitate the full participation in family life of persons with intellectual disabilities and the full expression of their human rights.

The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 was published immediately prior to Christmas and completed Second Stage in February 2017.  The primary purpose of the Bill is to address the remaining legislative barriers to Ireland’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).   Work is ongoing on all the other issues set out in the previous Government’s Roadmap for Ratification published in October 2015 and these will be progressed as Committee Stage amendments.  The Bill will be progressed to enactment at an early date to facilitate ratification of the UN Convention as soon as possible.

The precise timing of ratification now depends on how long it will take for this Bill to progress through the enactment process and on issues in relation to commencement both of deprivation of liberty provisions, which will be included in the Bill at Committee Stage, and of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015.

I would like to take this opportunity to assure the Deputy that ratification of the UNCRPD remains a very high priority for me as Minister.

 

 

 

 

 

Group Water Schemes must get fair treatment

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Government to implement measures to ensure equitable treatment of householders on group water schemes and public water supplies.

Deputy Brendan Smith says the Housing Minister must now follow through on his commitment to implement the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services.  It stated that “the principles of equity of treatment and equivalent financial support should be applied equally between households on public water supplies and those in Group Schemes and those using individual water and waste water systems”.

“We have a very strong network of successful group water schemes throughout Cavan and Monaghan, and Fianna Fáil has a proud record in Government in ensuring a massive investment in upgrading existing schemes and indeed constructing new schemes.  This work was a great partnership between Government, local authorities and local communities and I was very glad to support that work.  The role of these group water schemes must continue to be supported through direct Government subvention” said Deputy Smith.

“These schemes are extremely important for rural communities and in many instances provide the main water supply for villages and small towns.  The Water Services Bill must not disadvantage the people participating on these schemes and the future working of such schemes.

“Replying to me in a Parliamentary Question, Minister Murphy confirmed that his Department “will shortly commence a review involving the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and other relevant stakeholders to advance the recommendation of the Committee in relation to the quantification of investment required to equalise treatment between those availing of domestic water services from Irish Water and those availing of private services”.

“I am urging him to progress this recommendation as a matter of priority to ensure that group water schemes will receive the funding they need and will not be left disadvantaged under any new legislation”.

 

For Written Answer on : 03/10/2017

Question Number(s): 615 Question Reference(s): 41619/17

Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government

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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he plans to implement to ensure equitable treatment of householders on group water schemes and householders on public water supplies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services reported in April 2017 and its Report was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Committee recommended that the principles of equity of treatment and equivalent financial support should be applied equally between households on public water supplies and those in Group Schemes and those using individual water and waste water systems.

The Water Services Bill 2017 was published recently and the provisions in the Bill give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. My Department will shortly commence a review involving the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and other relevant stakeholders to advance the recommendation of the Committee in relation to the quantification of investment required to equalise treatment between those availing of domestic water services from Irish Water and those availing of private services.

 

 

 

 

“The need to have additional investment in primary education with a particular focus on pupil teacher ratio in Junior and Senior Infants” – Deputy Brendan Smith.

Again in Dáil Éireann I raised with the Minister for Education and Skills the need to have additional investment in primary education with a particular focus on pupil teacher ratio in Junior and Senior Infants.

I had detailed discussions at local and national level with INTO Representatives in relation to the issues they identified as priorities for Budget 2018.

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For Written Answer on : 27/09/2017 

Question Number(s): 106 Question Reference(s): 40989/17 

Department: Education and Skills 

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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he proposes to implement to honour the commitments in the programme for a partnership government in relation to a reduction in the pupil teacher ratio in junior and senior infants, the annual increases in capitation rates and the reduction in primary school class sizes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Budget 2017 set out the resources available for schools in the 2017/18 school year. The budget provides for over 2,400 additional teaching posts for our primary and post-primary schools in the current school year.

Budget 2016 provided for an improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools by 1 point, from 1 teacher for every 28 pupils to 1 teacher for every 27 pupils for the 2016/17 school year and it should be noted that the current staffing schedule of 27:1 for primary schools has restored it to the position it was at prior to the fiscal crisis. The staffing schedule for post primary will be 19:1 for the 2017/18 school year.

The Action Plan for Education outlines hundreds of actions to be implemented over the 3 year period 2016 to 2019 which include restoring capitation funding as resources permit.

The process is underway for restoring grant funding that is used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff. The ancillary grant was increased by €6m in 2016 and €5m in 2017 in order to enable primary schools implement the arbitration salary increase for grant funded school secretaries and caretakers and to also implement the restoration of salary for cleaners arising from the unwinding of FEMPI legislation.

The Programme for Government has a commitment to reduce class sizes at primary level and it is my intention to make further improvements to class sizes over the life of the Government.

However, I recognise that there are needs across the system which have to be balanced in the decisions made in each Budget.

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For Written Answer on : 27/09/2017 

Question Number(s): 107 Question Reference(s): 40990/17 

Department: Education and Skills 

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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give consideration to issues identified as a priority for budget 2018 by a trade union (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) email sent to Dept on 22/09/2017 @13:49

REPLY

Decisions in relation to Budget 2018 will be taken as part of the estimates process and will be announced on Budget day.

The 2017/18 school year brings a significant increase of over 5,000 in teacher numbers in our schools compared to the 2015/16 school year.

While I am aware of the issues outlined, there are needs across the system which have to be balanced in the decisions made in each Budget.